Future Imperfect


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 26, 1999

When Felicia Austin-Tolliver spoke at the Hillsborough High School graduation ceremony 10 years ago (Interview: The Coin of Life), she predicted that her classmates would help rid the world of teen pregnancy and crack cocaine.

There was some prescience in what she said. The government says the teenage birth rate has fallen 18 percent since 1991. Crack is still the nation's worst illegal drug problem, but the percentage of high school students who have used cocaine also has dropped.

Ten years ago, a lot of people were talking about the year 2000, but their predictions often were not as accurate as Austin-Tolliver's. Here are some examples from the 1989 Times, along with what has actually happened:

Tampa Stadium's future beyond the year 2000 remains in doubt.

It was demolished last January.

(Pinellas County Sheriff Everett) Rice's staff estimates that the jail population should reach 3,257 by 1995, and 4,358 by the year 2000.

The population was about 2,600 in December 1999.

J. D. Power and Associates predicts that the number ... of auto dealerships will decline from 25,000 to 18,000 (by the year 2000).

There are 22,400 dealerships in the U.S., according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

If you want to send your kid to Harvard in 10 years, you'd better start saving now. According to estimates of one investment service, it will cost $173,894 for four years at the Ivy League school by the year 2000.

Tuition and fees for the 1999-2000 school year are about $32,000 -- $128,000 over four years.

According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, only 7.5 percent of newsroom staffers nationwide are members of minorities. ... The ASNE has set a goal of 20 percent minority representation on newsroom staffs by the year 2000.

Minorities represented 11.55 percent in 1999, according to the ASNE.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, was quoted as saying that holding the Olympics in Berlin, possibly as soon as the year 2000, would be a sign of peace.

The 2000 Olympics were awarded to Sydney, Australia, in a bidding process that proved to be tainted by bribery and influence-peddling.

The problem is getting the middle class to remember Kmart when they think of golf equipment. Kmart estimates that the number of golfers will almost double, to 40-million, by the year 2000.

The United States has 26.4-million golfers, according to the National Golf Foundation.

Demographer Harold Hodgkinson says that the rate (of children living in poverty) could reach 50 percent in Florida by 2000.

Twenty-two percent of Florida's children live below the poverty line, according to the Census Bureau.

What is the hope that our manatees won't all be dead by 2000?

About 2,500 manatees spend the winter in Florida's coastal waters.

By the year 2000, Commissioner of Education Betty Castor predicts that 50 percent of all Florida public school students will be members of minorities.

The figure was 45 percent in December 1998.

Big Pine Key is home to a tiny subspecies of whitetail deer, known as Key Deer. They may be extinct by the year 2000. Only about 250 are left.

There are still about 250 Key Deer, but they're contending with a new enemy: fire ants.

By the year 2000, drivers could choose from among six lanes on U.S. 19 between Crystal River and Homosassa and four lanes north of Crystal River; U.S. 41 south of Inverness also would be six lanes.

U.S. 19 has four lanes between Crystal River and Homosassa and four lanes north of Crystal River. U.S. 41 south of Inverness has two lanes in some places and four in others.

There is evidence that (the Bush administration) suppressed intelligence assessments on the diminishing Soviet threat until this year's defense budget of nearly $300-billion had been passed. That budget could be halved ... by the year 2000.

The defense budget will be $267-billion in 2000, according to the Department of Defense.

Nationwide, air travel nearly doubled since deregulation began 11 years ago. ... The FAA projects that it will nearly double again by the year 2000 -- to about 800-million passengers.

The number of passengers was about 659-million in 1999, according to the FAA.

By 2000, the World Health Organization predicts the eradication of polio, a disease now striking 208,000 children annually.

There were 5,200 confirmed cases of polio worldwide in 1999, according to the WHO.

* * *

What can we learn from all this? That most things aren't as good or as bad as we think they will be. Ours is not a world of happy golfers; nor is it a world without manatees and Key Deer. Things could be better. They could be worse.

All of that is worth keeping in mind as you read this edition of Turn. Throughout these pages, you will find our staff's predictions for the year 2100. Some are serious, some are not, but all in some way reflect the future as we see it.

Let's hope we have done as well as Felicia Austin-Tolliver did in 1989.

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